Illustrated Articles

Emergency Situations

  • Anorexia (a loss of appetite) and lethargy (a feeling of listlessness and general inactivity) are commonly seen in sick pet birds. While not diagnostic for any specific disease, these signs can indicate severe illness in a bird that requires immediate medical attention. Birds rarely get sick overnight. Usually birds are ill before pet owners notice outward signs of illness.

  • Egg binding is not uncommon in birds and may be resolved easily if treated early. Egg binding occurs when the female bird is unable to expel the egg from her body. If a prolonged period has elapsed since the bird began attempting to lay the egg, she may become critically ill. Birds with egg binding may or may not have passed an egg more than 2 days ago, are usually weak, not perching, often sitting low on the perch or on the bottom of the cage, and are straining as if trying to defecate or to lay an egg. Treatment varies depending upon how sick the bird is, as well as the location of the egg and the length of time the bird has been egg bound. Critically ill birds are first treated supportively for shock, and then attempts are made to extract the egg. If your veterinarian cannot see the egg through the vent, surgery under general anesthetic may be necessary to remove the egg from the abdomen. A hysterectomy (removal of the oviduct and uterus) is typically the last choice therapy, when medical and egg extraction through the vent are not possible.

  • Ferrets have several unique problems; understanding these problems will allow you to better care for your pet and minimize future health care problems.

  • Guinea pigs are generally hardy, healthy animals but are susceptible to certain diseases. They cannot make their own vitamin C and require supplementation or they may develop scurvy. Guinea pigs get various tumors, particularly skin and mammary tumors. Guinea pigs also get abscesses (accumulations of pus and bacteria) in lymph nodes, skin, muscles, teeth, bones, and internal organs. They are very prone to development of urinary calculi that form in the bladder, kidneys, or ureters which may become lodged, causing a life-threatening obstruction. In addition, guinea pigs often are affected by ringworm and can get fleas and lice. Barbering is a problem, usually associated with boredom, in which the guinea pig chews or barbers its own hair or the hair of its cage-mate. Pododermatitis, or bumblefoot, in which sores develop on the bottom of the feet from pressure, is common in overweight animals housed on wire-bottomed or dirty cages that abrade the feet.

  • Rodents commonly develop certain health problems. Rabies is very unlikely in pet rodents (especially those housed inside, away from other animals). Many rodents barber their own hair or the hair of a cagemate as a result of stress in the form of overcrowding, fighting, or boredom. Foot necrosis is caused by fine fiber or thread nesting material wrapping around toes or feet and cutting off circulation. Guinea pigs cannot make their own vitamin C, so they must receive it as a supplement in their diets. All pet rodents, but especially guinea pigs and chinchillas, are very susceptible to life-threatening heat stroke from high ambient temperatures (greater than 80°F or 27°C). Certain antibiotics should never be used in rodents, as they upset the normal bacteria that live in rodents’ gastrointestinal tracts and favor toxin-producing bacteria that can be fatal to rodents. Chromodacryorrhea is seen in mice, gerbils, and most often in rats Diarrhea can have several different causes in rodents including infections with different bacteria, parasites, or viruses. Rodents also commonly get fractured bones from mishandling or falls, bacterial skin infections (dermatitis) on their faces, and may also experience seizures.

  • Birds are naturally mischievous and if not properly supervised, will get into many predicaments. It is crucial that you bird proof your home. The bird's cage is its house and the confines of your home represent the bird's environment.

  • If you saw a person have a seizure or fall down the stairs or wreck a car, what would you do? You'd call 911. But what should you do when the crisis involves your pet? You call a pet emergency number. Ask your veterinary hospital how they handle after-hour emergencies.

  • Iguanas have several unique disease problems; understanding these problems will allow you to better care for your pet and minimize future health care problems.

  • When a feather is pulled out or falls out during a normal moult, a new feather is stimulated to start growing right away. As the new feather (pin or blood feather) emerges from the skins feather follicle, it looks like a spike, quill or much like the feather shaft itself.

  • Many birds naturally eat plants as part of their diet. Some birds will chew on and possibly consume plants out of curiosity or during play. Many toxic plants will just make a bird sick if they ingest them, but some can kill them. Fortunately, rather than ingesting plants, most birds shred and play with plants with which they come in contact. This handout catalogues many of the indoor and outdoor plants that are considered to be potentially toxic to birds.